Let’s Play White

I finished Let’s Play White yesterday and it is tremendous. I honestly don’t know if I’ve read that much horror by women. But seeing a woman do it and so well really makes that hole in my personal library more obvious. I think it’s more like a The Orphanage kind of horror than a The Shining–the movie kind of horror, meaning that the horror doesn’t come because the supernatural intrudes, but because human nature is what it is, even in the presence of the supernatural.

I also really like that characters seem aware of the weight of the past and that a strain of anger works through a lot of the stories. Ha, you know, if you wanted a really good sense of how hard it can be for authors to write women who are angry, but not “bitchy” or black people who are angry without being “militant” (I use those words in quotes to signal I’m referring to an author relying on a racial or gender stereotype, not writing a character who might be genuinely bitchy or genuinely militant), reading Let’s Play White along side the book version of The Shining would be an interesting exercise.

I liked “The Teachings and Redemption of Fannie Lou Mason” the best, but I think “The Room where Ben Disappeared” might be the most perfect story of the way that history and privilege and socialization come together to enable you to see pleasing grown white men as more important than protecting the black people who raised you and whom you love. Even though it’s got an ostensibly medium-happy ending, I found it the most unsettlingly horrifying of the bunch. The idea that this woman had to lose her son because the kid she nannied did the “right” thing, that the “right” way is set up in such a fucked manner as to enable the loss of that son… It’s just tremendous. I mean, that is how it was/is set up in real life. To see it rightly told as a horror story is really powerful. And the framing of the story, thinking you’re going to get something along the lines of The Fall of the House of Usher or The Haunting of Hill House only to have that turned on its ear at the end, is really tremendous.

It’s an upset of a lot of national myths.

Though the stories are all independent of each other, it really works well as a book, getting at a lot of the same themes from a bunch of directions.

I really thought it was tremendous. Now I just have to figure out how to slip it to the Professor.